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12/09/08 11:35 PM EST
Brewers prepare next move for CC
Club asks for another meeting with Sabathia
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
LAS VEGAS -- A couple of CC Sabathia items churning around the rumor mill on Day 2 at the Winter Meetings caught Brewers general manager Doug Melvin's eye, so he decided to set the record straight: 1. Contrary to reports, the Brewers have not increased their initial offer. 2. Contrary to other reports, that does not necessarily mean they are opposed to increasing it at some point.
"We have not made that decision yet," Melvin said.
There were strong indications, though, that the Brewers were preparing to sweeten the deal. Melvin said Tuesday that he had recent contact with principal owner Mark Attanasio, who would have to approve any changes to the offer. Melvin also said that the next move was the team's, and not Sabathia's.
"I think they've asked us [to make the next move]," Melvin said. "The ball is probably in our court a little bit."
The Brewers also jumped into the market for free-agent closers on Tuesday and met with the Mariners, a potential trade partner, but their only real action on the Sabathia front was to place a call to his agents to ask for a second sit-down. As of 7 p.m. CT, Melvin had not heard back on that request, but he said it would "probably make sense to have a meeting with them" before the Winter Meetings conclude Thursday.
"I think it's fair to say that it's very clear in our minds what needs to happen next," Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said. "It's just making sure there is enough internal agreement on that. Doug is very clear on what he is going to do next."
Melvin still won't say whether the figures widely circulated as the Brewers' initial offer -- five years and $100 million -- are correct.
Melvin and Ash met Monday with three of Sabathia's reps including lead agent Greg Genske, who has not responded to reporters' interview requests since the end of the season. Sabathia and/or his agents have also met with the Yankees and Red Sox at these meetings, and have had at least some contact with the Dodgers, Giants and Angels.
The Yankees, whose initial offer checked in at six years and $140 million, continued their strong pursuit Tuesday. Newsday reported on its Web site that Yankees GM Brian Cashman left the Bellagio to meet with Sabathia in the San Francisco area. It would be Sabathia's third meeting in three days with the Yankees.
If Sabathia goes elsewhere, the Brewers would have to redouble their efforts to add starting pitching. As of Tuesday, they could field a five-man rotation of Yovani Gallardo, Dave Bush, Jeff Suppan and Seth McClung with little depth. McClung is also a candidate for closer, another Brewers need.
So team officials have been brainstorming more cost-effective alternatives. Instead of moving from Sabathia to the other marquee free-agent starters, they instead have considered names like Carl Pavano and Randy Wolf before deciding that the injury risk was too great for Pavano and the asking price too high for Wolf. New Brewers manager Ken Macha said Melvin has other names on a board in his hotel suite, which is doubling this week as the Brewers' workroom.
If the free-agent market yields no answers, the Brewers may have to consider trading one of their young hitters for arms. It could make some sense for the Brewers to deal star first baseman Prince Fielder, whose salary will skyrocket this winter in arbitration, or shortstop J.J. Hardy, who is entering his second winter of arbitration and has a prospect -- Alcides Escobar -- pushing him from behind.
Again, Melvin set the record straight Tuesday.
"We do not have anything on the table with any club on Fielder or Hardy," he said.
That does not mean other teams don't call to ask.
"I don't think deals should be considered anything 'serious' until there is something on the table," Melvin said. "Names get mentioned all the time. 'Would you talk about this player?' Until there is a legitimate exchange of names, [it is just talk]."
The Mariners look like a perfect match, and indeed Melvin met with Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik on Tuesday. Zduriencik was Milwaukee's scouting director until last month so he is familiar with Brewers' players, he has a closer to offer (J.J. Putz) plus a number of quality young starters, and he's seeking bats this winter, which the Brewers have in some supply.
But Melvin said he doesn't think the Brewers and Mariners match up.
"We didn't talk too much," Melvin said. "[Zduriencik] said, 'Is there anything we need to talk about?' I said, 'I don't think so. If we think of something, I'll give you a call.' He's familiar with our players, so he probably would prefer to make a deal with us."
Melvin declined to say whether he had any interest in Putz.
Melvin said that indications from the Mariners were that pitching prospect Brandon Morrow is not available.
While the Brewers waited for word from the Sabathia camp on Tuesday, they jumped into the free-agent closer market. Milwaukee needs a replacement for Salomon Torres, who took over ably from Eric Gagne in June but announced his retirement after the season.
Melvin met with Pat Rooney, who represents Kerry Wood, and Rick Thurman, who represents both Brian Fuentes and Trevor Hoffman. The Brewers were also interested in Wood last year at this time before he re-signed with the Cubs, but on Tuesday he was nearing a two-year deal with the Indians.
With Francisco Rodriguez close to signing with the Mets, that would leave Fuentes and Hoffman from what Melvin called the four, "A-type" closers on the free-agent market. But he "just met" with Thurman, and Melvin gave no indication that the Brewers were preparing offers.
Filling the closer's role might have to wait for the outcome with Sabathia.
"It's business as usual," Melvin said. "We prepare ourselves mentally that we have him and we also think about if we don't have him," Melvin said. "We have Plan A, Plan B. Scenario A, scenario B."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.